Last week I spoke to Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB about what businesses can do to keep succeeding through tougher times. This topic was brought on by the news last week that the economic slowdown isn’t turning around anytime soon, with reports that business confidence is slumping even further, and global growth is also slowing.
You can listen to that interview below…
But this economy doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom for NZ businesses. In fact, this is your chance to really own your own market and shine! These are my tips on what to do with your business to survive a slowing economy:
LOOK AT YOUR DATA AND WORK OUT WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOUR BUSINESS’ FUTURE.
You really need to understand your numbers and KPIs so you can identify what parts of your business are under-performing and where there’s room for growth. What positively impacts your bottom line? What’s draining it? What spends have ROI? Which ones can be canned? No matter what sized business you are, it’s always good to take a step back and think like a start-up, asking what costs have got out of control and what need to reigned in or chopped out altogether. It’s also useful to look at where you should be spending MORE money in order to grow the business. Get familiar with your conversion rate, your # of leads, your delivery of jobs, efficiency, customer happiness etc. The most important thing is to know what parts of your business are making a good profit, an average profit, poor profit, no profit, or no profit and costing you. Numbers don’t lie. Do you know who your most profitable customers and products or services are? Put more time into growing the most profitable parts of your business.
KNOW WHAT DIRECTION YOU’RE HEADED IN.
Like Jimmy Dean said: “I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to reach the destination”. If the wind/economy changes, you need to be considered about how you will move your “sails” to keep momentum. What’s your business plan like? When was the last time you did one? Is it suitable for the current economy? Now’s the time to really nut out your business model, plan and strategy to ensure you’re spending your time wisely and doing the right things – the things that will make a difference to your business and keep you afloat. If it’s been more than a year since you last worked on your business plan, you need to come to one of my workshops. Bring your team so you get more insight as well as getting them facing the same way on the bus. Determine your strategy to give you the best chance of remaining competitive in this market.
KNUCKLE DOWN AND DO WHAT REALLY MATTERS.
So you’ve got your business plan and strategy sorted – now you need to make sure that whatever you’re doing aligns with those things and gets you closer to your goal. Laser-like focus is hugely important at a time like this. You can’t risk wasting time on the nice-to-haves; you need to be focused on focusing your energy on doing those business-changing things. People often do what they want to do first – what they LIKE to do – which is often the smallest, easiest, most fun things. But my advice is to look at the things on your list that are big and often difficult as they are usually the things you need to focus your energy on. One client of mine doesn’t believe in to-do lists because he thinks you can get bogged down in the clutter of inconsequential tasks, but if you don’t keep a daily task list, only the big important tasks stick. There is some merit in this. If anything, start a “Must do”, “Nice to do”, and “Stop doing” list. Remember the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. You don’t imagine Steve Jobs got up in the morning and started responding to minor email requests, do you? Learn how to prioritise. And even when you’re doing the small, scrappy things on your list, make sure you’re thinking about the big things so that all the small things go in the right direction…
THINK OF YOURSELF AS AN EMPLOYEE – ARE YOU UTILISING YOURSELF PROPERLY?
Are you putting your time as a business owner or manager into things that are worth $25 an hour or $100 an hour or $1000 an hour? Put more time into the things that are worth $1000 an hour to your business – it’s as simple as that. Delegate, outsource and stop doing those things that are not worth your time and put more time into your personal unique ability. Be brutal with yourself: you’ll be really great at some things (do more of it) and average or below at others (stop doing these things!). I often see clients trying to improve the things they are poor at to become average at them – and they’re $70 an hour things! It’s just not worth it! In our own business, my wife Sip and I constantly ask ourselves, “Is this business changing? Or should we be outsourcing this?” We try really hard not to handle the things that don’t make our business money. For example, Sip is a super-talented cook – she used to own hospo ventures and her food is incredible. But even for our on-site business workshops, we get a caterer in because we realise that even though she CAN do it, it’s not the best use of her time to. What do you need to stop doing?
TAKE A BREAK.
It seems like an oxymoron to ask you to take time off when you’re facing tough times in your business, but I promise you that time will be productive and pay dividends. It’s great to be hands-on but often you need to get off the tools and away from the workplace to really think about why your business is not doing as well as it could be and to get deep clarity on why you are in the situation you are. As Murray Thom says, no good ideas come from being in the office. Instead, inspiration strikes when you have the room to think. People make the mistake of being too busy to leave their business, but if they left their business, they could make such a difference on their return. As well as giving you the room to think and to think creatively, it’s also massive in warding off burnout and fatigue, which we need to be very aware of as business owners, especially when we’re facing less than ideal business times. You’re doing yourself no favours by working yourself into the ground. Get a hobby. Exercise. Meet with friends. You’ll be so much more productive when you do go back into the workplace.
There’s a lot more I could share on this topic, to help get your business through an economic slowdown – I talk about these points and lots more in my two-day business planning & strategy workshops. The plan you make in this workshop will give you the clarity you need to navigate your market, no matter the economy. I’ve been running these workshops for over two years and more than 400 NZ and Australian businesses have attended and found massive value from them. See our next run of courses here: https://www.businesschanging.com/workshops/